Mike Jenkins

Mike Jenkins

Mike Jenkins is an award-winning Welsh poet and author and unofficial poet for Cardiff City FC. His new book of political poetry, Nobody's Subject, is published in Summer 2016.

Winding Back
Monday, 19 February 2024 14:52

Winding Back

Published in Poetry

This poem is about The Winding House museum in New Tredegar in the Valleys (see above), built on the site of the Elliot colliery. It is due to be shut by Caerffili's Labour Council at the end of March as part of cuts. My choir Merthyr Aloud will sing there along with local choir White Rose Singers on March 22nd, 2024.

Winding Back

by Mike Jenkins

Wind the wheel back
Memories of the dark -
Of a collier lost
In the deep galleries,
Of a canary ceased,
Of a pit-pony toppled,
Of props snapping,
Of floods and dust
Choking many throats
Made for singing.

Yet also, winding back
To butties joking,
To laughter echoing,
To names called
"Bryn-O!" carried to the face,
To comrades out on strike
For a tidy wage,
To the Stutes and their books
Promising better days.

Wind it and watch it
Reeling back in black and white,
Though they can never
Wash away the coal
Engrained in palm-lines
Showing none a fortune.
Spinning a lethal barrel,
Or the thread of tales.

For Gaza
Friday, 10 November 2023 11:08

For Gaza

Published in Poetry

For Gaza

by Mike Jenkins

They dried up the terrain
Like parched riverbeds with only names left

They bombed the shops and warehouses -
Every child's stomach a crater

They cut off the electricity
So darkness was a way of life

They stopped the journalists from entering;
Who queued before danger like relief trucks

They blew up the roads , those 'potholes'
The pocks of many missiles

They ordered a million to move on ,
Who were followed by spying drones

They blockaded air , sea and land,
Huge noose of every element

While the people ran out of bodybags -
Soldiers on the border, inhuman predators.

Image above: by Alisdare Hickson. A Black man carrying a placard "Gaza - Stop the Massacre" at a protest near Downing Street in London. In the background, a placard "#Endthesiege". This was the day after the U.S. moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and 61 unarmed Palestinians, including several children, a baby, and journalist Yasser Murtada, were killed by the Israeli army during a demonstration near Gaza's border fence.

The Refugee Game
Tuesday, 06 June 2023 16:31

The Refugee Game

Published in Poetry

The Refugee Game

by Mike Jenkins

You start in your own land.
What are you fleeing from?
Pick a card: drought, war, famine,
A callous, oppressive regime.

If you begin in Albania
You won't get far -
Return to Go, start again
(It’s jobs you're after
And there are plenty,
But you're surely a gangster).

Roll the dice, land on Poland,
Hungary or Serbia -
You want to keep moving
But you can only go back.

The Calais camp is like jail
Except there's no formula
To get out, no double.

If you manage, there's a small boat.
This is where it gets tricky!
Pick up your Chance cards -
Overboard, drowned, arrested.

If you progress there are hotels,
Detention centres, paltry hand-outs.
You haven't won,
You're just stuck on a square.

There's that square ahead -
If you land on it
It will be straight to Rwanda,
Do not pass Go,
Do not collect your 45 quid.
You're out.... off the board!

But if you're fortunate
Pick up your Community Chest card -
' If you're from Ukraine,
Go round the board,
You get a visa, a job,
Can even visit home.'

You've lost your house or your family,
Sometimes your whole town.
There's no returning to square one,
Though you roll and hope
Again and again and again.
And the name of the game
Is "Nobody Can Win".

Note: the image above is of Syrian and Iraqi refugees reach the coastal waters of Lesbos in Greece, after having crossed from Turkey.

Coronation poem: When the New King Came
Saturday, 29 April 2023 15:23

Coronation poem: When the New King Came

Published in Poetry

When the New King Came

by Mike Jenkins, with image by Steve Bell

When the new king came to the Diff
There were many lining the streets
Waving their Union Jacks
Ready to take mobile snaps :
Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Others who sang and heckled -
Glyndwr, Yes Cymru banners and placards;
The purple-headed girl with hers
"Fuck the Royals,  Feed the Poor"
Warned of arrest by the cops.

When the new King came to the Diff
There were police on castle turrets
Spying on every movement
Others with guns like adverts
For an arms fair welcomed to Wales.

When he came he would not have seen
The many homeless huddled in doorways,
Like they'd been spewed out and rejected,
And not one rose to greet
His cavalcade and big, black limousine.

When the new King came to the Diff
Press-ganged pupils squealed
And even shouted "Cymru!" in confusio ;
In that place of Normans and coal barons,
He came, he spoke.....but did not conquer.

Note: The diff is local slang for Cardiff

Picnic in a Car
Tuesday, 06 December 2022 09:57

Picnic in a Car

Published in Poetry

Picnic in a Car

by Mike Jenkins, with image above by Martin Gollan

It’s winter,
theyer avin a picnic
in theyer car agen,
im an er
up Cyfarthfa Park
overlookin-a lake
shaped like a fish
(local knowledge tha).

Ev’ry day they’re there
with sarnies an flask
watchin ducks, swans, geese -
mus geh dead borin.

Loadsa layers o clothin
an they on’y goh a small car -
a wonder they fit in!

They ewsed t walk
round ’n round the lake -
one day changed direction.

Save on eatin bills,
keep breathin,
doze in the afternoon.

Spottin-a dog-walkers,
famlees with children,
opeful tourists an istorians,
an them anglers sittin
with rods ready,
patient as them.

Red Poets: 29 years old and still breathing fire
Sunday, 25 September 2022 09:07

Red Poets: 29 years old and still breathing fire

Published in Poetry

Twenty nine years ago at Clwb-y-Bont in Pontypridd, a strange creature was born. Then called Red Poets’ Society (as in the film Dead Poets’ Society), it later morphed into Red Poets. It was founded by me and Wrecsam’s Marc Jones, both activists in the left-wing group Cymru Goch. We remain co-editors to this day. We have produced annual magazines of leftist poetry (predominantly from Wales), reviews, articles and translations, but are also a performance group, with a hardcore of regulars. When you consider our first launch, it’s a wonder this creature survived at all, let alone flourished. Our printers failed to deliver and we were left with no magazines, only a lot of covers!

Initially, the project was intended as a one-off anyway, with poems gathered from the newspapers ‘Welsh Republic’ and Cymru Goch’s monthly ‘Y Faner Goch’, alongside new, solicited material. Renowned writers like Harri Webb and Nigel Jenkins were featured.

Despite Cymru Goch’s prominence in the anti-poll tax campaign and other issues, their single most lasting legacy is this magazine and ‘loose collective’. Red Poets take a unique combination of amusing, angry and cutting verse to a remarkable variety of venues, often pubs in working-class areas where poetry has never ventured before.

On most occasions local people join in on the inevitable open mic, such as one time in Tredegar, when one man decided to do rap versions of Dylan Thomas in a camp voice and another, just out of prison, read raw, confessional poetry about his experiences inside.

Over the years we have given a platform to over half the winners of the John Tripp Prize for Spoken Poetry, including Clare Potter and Emily Hinshelwood. We also brought out a CD of one performance entitled ‘Live At Blackwood’, which can be accessed on our website. If you ignore the duelling blues harmonica chaos of the drunken finale (each in a different key!), it provides a real insight into what our evenings are like: full of verve and humour.

We’ve taken part in a number of benefits, from striking dockers to the closure of a local authority care home and, more recently, performed in support of the anti-opencast group in the Rhymni Valley, against the proposed site at Nant Llesg.

Many fascinating characters have joined our ranks during these twenty years. One has been Ray Joseph from the Rhondda, a true people’s poet who used to do his poems ‘door-to-door’ and sometimes only had a glass of water to thank for his efforts. Another was the well-known singer-songwriter Labi Siffre (famous for hits like ‘So Strong’), who moved to the Brecon Beacons and took up poetry. His starkly unsettling work about being black and gay was always powerful.

A highlight through the years has been the signature poem of the poet Jazz from Penywaun, near Aberdare. ‘Giro City’ is on ‘Live at Blackwood’ and he has accosted many an unsuspecting eardrum with his supersonic scream, including shoppers in Merthyr precinct and concert-goers at the Millennium Centre.

Music has gradually played a bigger part at our ‘gigs’, and this was especially true of Cardiff’s sadly-forgotten Riff Williams (from the band Little Miracle), Spike from Twp, Hastings & Pudner and Welsh language singer-songwriter Jamie Bevan.

In the early days it didn’t always work, such as when I organised an event with Merthyr rock band Original Mind. A great band, they just didn’t fit with the audience and blew poets and punters out of the room with their sheer volume. We have had a few other disasters along the way, like one party political social where we were asked not to come on at all for the second half because they wanted the disco instead. Jazz wasn’t impressed and their speaker took the full force of his boot!

However, we continue to change and develop and have been joined by exciting younger talents like Jonathan Edwards and Gemma Howell along the way. We have published the first collection by long-time contributor Tim Richards called ‘Subversive Lines’ and followed that up with ‘You’re Welcome to Wales’ by Neath poet Phil Knight the following year.

At a time when many poets feel marginalised by literary magazines and poetry in Wales too often appears to be a branch of Creative Writing departments at universities, ‘Red Poets’ offers an idealistic and frequently funny alternative. The latest issue provides a rare opportunity to look back on the Red Poets, with prose pieces by long-time contributors Tim Richards, Al Jones and Julie Pritchard, not to mention poems about the group, and below is The Desolation of Holiday Homes, a poem by Annest Gwilym from RP 28. 'Red Poets' is available from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Scottish novelist and Booker Prize-winner James Kelman once described Red Poets as ‘the best thing happening in poetry’. I know of no other similar collective and magazine devoted to left-wing verse in the world. The creature thrives and breathes fire!

The Desolation of Holiday Homes

(St. David’s Day)

Today, prime-location rooms
are flooded with lake-light:
jellied, wobbling on walls, unseen.

Dust motes are gilded in this house
that is empty for ten months a year,
furnishings damp, hearth full of ashes.

The horns of some dead animal
adorn the hallway, a creature’s pelt
sprawls on the parquet floor.

Mirror-like windows – blind eyes,
blink as the sun plays Midas
with the sunset’s colours.

A forgotten piece of cheese
in the fridge hardens
to the consistency of toenail parings.

Weeds choke the flower beds
of pale daffodils in a froth
of algae green, drowned lemon.

A crinkle of dry beech leaves
crusts the driveway,
carries the scent of decay.

Fog-weary faces of daisies
hide in the overgrown grass,
beaded with secret dew.

Worn mountains look on –
holding the aspirations of the ages –
with their many scars, slippage of scree.

Annest Gwilym

Igh Sheriff o Merthyr
Monday, 19 September 2022 08:17

Igh Sheriff o Merthyr

Published in Poetry

Igh Sheriff o Merthyr

by Mike Jenkins

Ee wuz off of is trolley,
shoutin in-a middle o Penderyn Square
like ee woz a Town Crier.

Ee ad all the regalia -
chains, fancy at , medals galore,
buh ardly spoke posher.

“Yer ye, yer ye! Good folk o Merthyr!
I’m yewer bran’new Igh Sheriff
appointed arfta givin bagsomoney.

Ower good Queen 've sadly
passed away, wavin from-a sky
on a separate cloud to er ubby.

She ave served us mos graciously,
same time lookin arfta er famlee
(speshly er darlin son Andy).

Now we welcome King Charlie III
oo once spoke sev’ral words o Welsh
an loves talkin t trees.

We say ‘Croeso!’ t Wills ower prince
an look forward t showin im round
b’fore ev’ry business shuts down town.

As Igh Sheriff I yerby decree
Prince Charles becomes King Charles Ospital
An Keir Ardie Ealth Centre’s named arfta Camilla.

As Igh Sheriff I yerby declare
this square will enceforth be named arfta me -
Josiah John Bacon Homfray Crawshay.”

Lock Me Up!
Saturday, 06 August 2022 17:37

Lock Me Up!

Published in Poetry

Lock Me Up

by Mike Jenkins

Lock me up , Rishi Sunak!
I have committed a thought -crime,
I am a modern Winston Smith,
I call myself Mihangel Morgannwg.

Rip me up, Sunak!
For I am an extremist
Wanting out of your beloved Union
Where we are an afterthought.

Report me to Prevent, Sunak!
I need to be re-programmed
To worship past wars
And idolise your Queen.

Round me up , Sunak!
I am one of millions:
You’ve already put our nations
Behind poverty’s bars.

Shut me up, Sunak!
Like the poet Ashraf Fayad,
800 lashes then incarcerated;
Yet words and songs will escape.

Finish me off, Sunak!
Like Lewis Lewis on a prison ship,
Or the innocent Dic Penderyn
A noose around his neck.

Do The Jubelly!
Tuesday, 31 May 2022 07:54

Do The Jubelly!

Published in Poetry

Do The Jubelly!

by Mike Jenkins

Curtsy first
Stoop low
Loll your tongue
Doff your cap
Crawl a while
Keep bent
Never stand straight
Nose really close
To your partner’s bum
Sniff sniff
Lick lick
Keep your tongue moving
All the time -
Do the corgi
Roll over and yap
Bare your belly
Wobble it like jelly -
Do the shot deer
Fall over backwards
Hold your heart -
Bow down
Till your face
Hits the ground -
All to the tune
Of ‘Sweet Caroline’.

Ey Mister Lan'Lor'!
Sunday, 01 May 2022 09:59

Ey Mister Lan'Lor'!

Published in Poetry

Ey Mister Lan’Lor’!

by Mike Jenkins, with image by Gus Payne

Tell me, Mister Lan’lor’
wha yew doin t me?
Jest me an my kid
tryin t make ends meet.
I work like a dog
a collie chasin sheep,
I’m on yewer leash.

Carn afford no car,
train fares always goin up,
food prices beyond
‘lectric’s the same –
yew wan’ us t end
up on-a street?

Ey Mister Lan’lor’
I know yew gotta make money,
buh yew goh more ouses
than I goh GCSEs
an I done tidee
even though I work in Tragos.

Yew ever gone without?
Gone to a foodbank?
Secon’ thoughts I’m more like a sheep,
with yew snappin us inta pens.
Wha’s-a fewture, eh?
Some ewman blydi abbatoir?

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